Thursday, May 27, 2010

People Who Know More Than You

Okay, so the Maker Faire story is taking a while. I was only there for 5 hours or so and there was still a ton of stuff to write about, and I'm being slightly lazy.

In the meanwhile, let me fill the gap by talking about presentations, since one of those is the reason I was in Berkeley the last few days. Basically, I had to make a little presentation in lab meeting on Wednesday about what I've been doing. A little background about the project and the techniques, a quick recounting of my various failed attempts, and the display/explanation of the data from the one trial in which things did work, followed up by a short list of where to go from here.

I'm not usually nervous about presentations, but this one had me worrying a little bit. I've realized that it's quite nerve-wracking to give a presentation to people who know the subject better than you. Hell, the main paper involved was written by my PI. Who knows it better than she does?

Two days before, I was still figuring out thresholds for comparing the experimental and control data, turning my huge tables in Excel (240 rows x DW columns is no joke) into pretty graphs, and figuring out the best way to show off my awesome-looking results.
Negative control on the top left - no response. With the thing  I'm testing - huge response. Inhibiting the thing I'm testing - no response again. Woooo, the assay works!

That lasted up until the evening before the meeting. Now it was time to start on my Powerpoint.
Yeah, a little late, but I actually don't procrastinate unless I know (unconsciously) I can make the deadline without too much stress. And this is something I've been working on for a whole semester, so I've got a pretty good understanding of it. Making the outline and the Powerpoint itself didn't take long.

The thing was, though, I'd seen some of the grad students in the lab presenting at lab meetings as well (one was practicing for her quals). They got asked a lot of tough questions. When I started, it was background, and nobody asked any questions. They all knew the stuff back and forth (I did mix up an important part, but my post-doc mentor was the only who caught it, and he waited until afterward to tell me). So I thought I was off the hook.

As soon as I got to my results, though, it was like a frenzy of (rather friendly) sharks. Most of the questions I got were on my data. How did I analyze it? Did I do this particular statistical analysis? Did I compare those two things? etc. Oh man. There were plenty of things I still had to do, so I couldn't answer everything, but apparently I still did a pretty good job.

So even though I'm not usually nervous about presentations, I've got to say: Whew. I'm glad that's over. For now.

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